Egyptian Inspirations: Celebrating 50 Years of Creative Weaving, an Exhibition at the Brunei Centre in London Presents a Rare Opportunity to See a Dazzling Collection of Tapestries from One of the World's Greatest Schools of Weaving, Egypt's Ground-Breaking Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Harrania

By Wells, Rhona | The Middle East, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Egyptian Inspirations: Celebrating 50 Years of Creative Weaving, an Exhibition at the Brunei Centre in London Presents a Rare Opportunity to See a Dazzling Collection of Tapestries from One of the World's Greatest Schools of Weaving, Egypt's Ground-Breaking Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Harrania


Wells, Rhona, The Middle East


TAPESTRIES PRODUCED BY weavers of the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre have been highly sought after by international museums across the world. Those fortunate enough to acquire examples include The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Royal Museum of Scotland, The Art Institute, Chicago and France's Musee lean Lurcat, in Angers. Running until 17 March, the Brunei Centre exhibition showcasing this remarkable work leaves the visitor in no doubt as to why so many top-flight establishments are keen to add Ramses Wissa Wassef weaving to their collections.

The London exhibition features masterpieces from the permanent collection in Harrania, as well as an array of stunning new pieces. Woven over the past half-century, they are the result of a unique educational philosophy that has profound significance for all forms of art and creativity. As well as the tapestries, some of the weavers are in London demonstrating their art.

The collection last visited Britain in 1985 when the tapestries were hailed for their beauty, humanity and significance. Remarkably, these vivid depictions of Egypt's flora, fauna and people were created by individuals without any formal art training.

The centre's founder, Ramses Wissa Wassef had a vision. He was convinced that everyone is born with artistic gifts but that these develop only through practising a craft from early childhood. To test his theory, he installed looms in a workshop in the village of Harrania, 10 miles from Cairo, and invited village children to learn to weave. When they had grasped the basic technique, he encouraged them to depict whatever they liked, laying down only three rules: no copying the designs of others, no preliminary designs, no adult interference or criticism. His experiment rapidly demonstrated that any child is able to create works of staggering beauty and skill.

His philosophy is summed up in the following quotation: "Human freedom never has as much meaning and value as when it allows the creative power of the child to come into action. All children are endowed with a creative power which includes an astonishing variety of potentialities. This power is necessary for the child to build up his own existence ...

"Modern society only promotes Impersonal and interchangeable talent which conforms to a certain set of norms. In spite of all this, sometimes the profound accent of a creative artist bursts out. But unfortunately, the world stands dumb for a long time ... We have never tired of listening to these children. They have proved that they all possess the creative spirit."

Since Ramses' death in 1974, his widow, Sophie Wissa Wassef, and their daughters, Suzanne and Yoanna, have energetically carried on the experiment. At present, approximately 100 individuals are employed at the centre, including adults, adolescents and children. Out of the 14 weavers who began with Ramses and Sophie 40 years ago, 12 are still actively weaving. …

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Egyptian Inspirations: Celebrating 50 Years of Creative Weaving, an Exhibition at the Brunei Centre in London Presents a Rare Opportunity to See a Dazzling Collection of Tapestries from One of the World's Greatest Schools of Weaving, Egypt's Ground-Breaking Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Harrania
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